Fair trade certification is crucial to the establishment of trust and transparency so that consumers can be confident that their purchases will actually help disadvantaged farmers and workers. While some products may be advertised as fair trade, we rely on independent third-parties to make sure that the farmers and producers of the products have been treated fairly.

There are multiple certifying organizations that focus on fair trade. Some are regional and others global. While they differentiate themselves by focusing on different segments of the supply chain or in the principles that they consider most important, their certifying approaches take the following into account:

  1. Principles and values – Certifying organizations define the types of trade and economic practices that are judged to be fair to the workers and their communities
  2. Evaluation – The producer’s labor and operational procedures are evaluated and is certified only after demonstrating that the fair trade principles are being applied.
  3. Monitoring – Certified producers are monitored to ensure ongoing compliance and to allow continued use of the fair trade label.

For hand crafts, it is common for producers to be certified through membership in a trade association. For commodity products, a company is certified if it is determined that products are produced according to fair trade principles. As consumer demand for fair trade increases, the organizations must also adapt. In recent years, there have been consolidations and splits which have changed how the certifying process works.

I’ve summarized the guiding principles and evaluation criteria used by the four most recognized certifying organizations.  Please visit their websites for more detailed information: